I receive a lot of email and Facebook messages with questions about keto, so I thought I’d share them here with you. Because if one person is asking, likely 100’s (or more) have the same question.
**This information is for educational purposes only. Before beginning any supplements or dietary changes, consult your doctor or qualified healthcare professional, especially if you are taking any medications.
Do I Need to Supplement with Potassium or Magnesium on a Keto Diet?
“I have used potassium for years to avoid the dreaded low-carb leg cramps, but I heard somewhere that magnesium was another option. I was wondering what your experience has been?”
Leg cramps can be caused by either low potassium or magnesium. Some people on a low carb, Atkins, or ketogenic diet experience leg cramps and this is most often because they don’t know about the requirement to supplement with sodium. Low carb diets are very diuretic (makes you pee a lot!) and with this, it can cause your kidneys to lose too much sodium. With the loss of sodium, it can also cause an imbalance in potassium and other electrolytes.
One of the things I cover in my 90 Day Keto Challenge Program are various micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), that are important for long-term health and how to get enough of them on a keto diet. Along with the importance of sodium supplementation, two of the minerals I cover are magnesium and potassium.
I think of sodium as our master electrolyte. Always start here with supplementation before considering adding magnesium and/or potassium. When you are consuming adequate sodium, it preserves potassium and magnesium in the body.
When you are consuming less than 60 grams of carbs per day, it is essential to supplement your diet with 2 – 5 grams of sodium, which is equal to 1 – 2.5 teaspoons of of table salt or sea salt. Just salting your food liberally will not get you there! I have my clients measure out at least 1 teaspoon per day (I do this, too) and do 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt in water in the morning and repeat again at the end of the day.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 310 mg (women) or 320 mg (men), however under certain circumstances, like stress or illness, some people may need as much as 900 mg per day. The best sources of magnesium on a low carb or keto diet (per 100 grams):
- Hemp Seeds 489 mg
- Almonds 276 mg
- Fish, salmon 122 mg
- Spinach 80 mg
- Avocado 30 mg
- Broccoli 20 mg
There is no RDA for potassium, only a suggested Adequate Intake (AI). Most of the U.S. population consumes about 2,500 mg of potassium per day, but the AI is set at 4,700 mg per day. The recommended amount was set based on reduction or elimination of sodium sensitivity, high blood pressure, and minimize kidney stones. However, since these symptoms go away for almost everyone following a ketogenic diet, I wonder what the adequate or optimal intake of potassium is for someone following on a keto diet. For this reason, I recommend that my clients start with sodium supplementation, then add magnesium if they are still experiencing muscle cramps, and then add potassium as a last resort (or if they aren’t eating anything green, no nuts or seeds, nor any fish or seafood).
A cheap form of potassium supplementation is Lite Salt or Nu Salt. It is about 50% sodium chloride and 50% potassium chloride, so by supplementing 2 teaspoons of this per day, you get sodium and potassium.
Best sources of potassium on a low carb or keto diet
- 1 avocado 689 mg
- 150 g salmon 658 mg
- 1.5 cups chopped broccoli 431 mg
- 2 cups spinach 334 mg
- 1 ounce hemp seeds 253 mg
- 1 ounce almonds 202 mg
Do I Need a Probiotic or Resistant Starch Supplement on a Keto Diet?
Supplementing with probiotics and/or resistant starch on a keto diet, for most people, is unnecessary. We do have a lot to learn in this area though, because the field of research about probiotics is relatively new and we just don’t have a large enough body of research specific to a ketogenic diet and the microbiome of our guts to draw upon.
There are tremendous changes that occur in the body as a person adopts a very low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet, and many of those changes happen in the gut. It is surprising to a lot of people who embark upon a gut healing protocol that it takes at least a year, and up to two years or more, to fully heal the gut. Most people on a keto diet experience various symptoms of digestion and elimination as their body adapts to the diet and begins to heal the gut, including diarrhea and/or constipation. While there are things that can help short-term with these symptoms, I encourage my clients to be patient with their bodies and allow it the time it needs to reorganize, recolonize, and regenerate the tissues.
I asked Dr. Adam Nally about his experience with and opinion of probiotic supplementation for people on a ketogenic diet when I recently sat down with him for a Keto Chat:
One of the key messages he gave us was that if you are eating plenty of saturated fat (which feeds the small intestinal bacteria) and leafy greens (which feeds the bacteria of the colon), then for most people, supplementing with resistant starch or a probiotic is not necessary.
What Resource Do You Recommend for Ketogenic Diets for Children?
The first place to look is The Charlie Foundation. They offer information and support for ketogenic diets for Alzheimer’s, autism, brain tumors, cancer, epilepsy, Lou Gerhig’s disease (ALS), mitochondrial disorders, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and more.
Here is their YouTube channel with several videos, as well.
Questions about Keto Diets?
Post your questions below or email them to me.